The Fall of the Roman Empire : A New History, Paperback

The Fall of the Roman Empire : A New History Paperback

4 out of 5 (6 ratings)


In AD 378 the Roman Empire had been the unrivalled superpower of Europe for well over four hundred years. And yet, August that year saw a small group of German-speaking asylum-seekers rout a vast Imperial army at Hadrianople, killing the Emperor and establishing themselves on Roman territory.

Within a hundred years the last Emperor of the Western Empire had been deposed.

What had gone wrong? In this ground breaking book, Peter Heather proproses a stunning new solution to one of the greatest mysteries of history.

Mixing authoratative analysis with thrilling narrative, he brings fresh insight into the panorama of the empire's end, from the bejewelled splendour of the imperial court to the dripping forests of "Barbaricum".

He examines the extraordinary success story that was the Roman Empire and uses a new understanding of its continued strength and enduring limitations to show how Europe's barbarians, transformed by centuries of contact with Rome, eventually pulled it apart. 'a colourful and enthralling narrative account full of keen wit and an infectious relish for the period.' Independent On Sunday 'provides the reader with drama and lurid colour as well as analysis ...succeeds triumphantly. ' Sunday Times 'a fascinating story, full of ups and downs and memorable characters' Spectator 'bursting with action can recommend to anyone, whether specialist or interested amateur.' History Today 'a rare combination of scholarship and flair for narrative' Tom Holland


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 592 pages, b/w plates (pages) 16
  • Publisher: Pan Macmillan
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: General & world history
  • ISBN: 9780330491365



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Showing 1 - 5 of 6 reviews.

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Review by

An extremely well researched account of the fall of the western Roman Empire. The author's convincing central thesis is that the fall was essentially down to the incursion of outsiders, not to any systemic weakness within the imperial system, though such weaknesses did mean that these incursions had a greater or quicker impact than they might otherwise have done. Mostly an excellent read, though I felt it did drag in a few places. Some of the maps were not as good as they could have been (e.g. refs in the text to towns X, Y and Z on a map and then those towns are not marked on it).

Review by

An excellent book that created a solciological context for the eventual demise of the Roman empire and its evolution in other. A salutary lesson for the USA and the EU. It maybe that the author, being so familiar with his topic, some what overwhelmed me with names [of tribes and persons] without giving me the breathing space to absorb one before launching us at the next - but this is a small observation on a book that transfromed my view on the end of the first European Union. Great book!

Review by

Heather's view is that the collapse of the Western Empire resulted from the loss of tax revenues as parts of the West suffered declining tax revenues due to impact of the Germanic peoples that entered the empire from the late 4th century. Those people were more dangerous to the Roman state than the first-century Germans described in Tacitus' "Germania" in part because their long contact with Rome led to the creation of larger and more sophisticated political confederations, which were also better led and equipped. This again is partly due to long contact with the Romans.The according to Heather the East had long helped finance the Western armies. When the two halves permanently went their separate ways the Western empire was already at a disadvantage. Declining tax revenue from devastated and (later) lost provinces sent the Western empire into a terminal tailspin.It's also very easy to read for the layperson.

Review by

This is a comprehensive, almost encyclopedic (for the non-expert) coverage of the end of the western Roman empire - but the author manages to keep it readable. One technique is to go into detail about a person, or place or event, and then use this information to illustrate a broader facet of the history. I was entertained and informed. Great stuff.

Review by

This is the first book I have read about this momentous event in the history of humanity of which I knew close to nothing. And its reading was an eye opening experience: the fall of the (Western) Roman Empire was not only a momentous event, but a really intricate and extended affair. It is fascinating to read about the events in the Danube frontier, the Persian peril, the Germanic push, the Huns, the disabling loss of North Africa, and the (in the end) doomed efforts of the western Empire to survive. An enthralling narrative that presents the facts and try to provide a rational (and reasonable) interpretation of them. Everyone interested in History, as well as every European, should find time to read this book.

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